Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 21, 2017

Cast the first stone

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

For those that are blithely ignoring anything that is uncomfortable in local and national news, from the East Bay Times:

Two classroom windows at Temple Israel of Alameda on Bay Farm Island were broken sometime Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, according to synagogue leaders.

On Friday, Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-Marin and Sonoma counties) issued a statement, describing the vandalism as “alarming.”

“We were deeply troubled to learn Temple Israel in Alameda was the target of vandalism yesterday,” the lawmakers said. “This is even more alarming with the recent rise of anti-Semitic attacks throughout our country. We stand with the congregation and the people of Alameda. We hope that police find the vandals responsible for this destruction and bring them to justice.”

What was terrific was the outpouring of support from the community, much like what happened when any act of bias related vandalism happens in Alameda.   From Jweekly:

Members and clergy from several local congregations, Jewish and Christian, showed up Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. to show their support for the Temple Israel family. Representatives from other East Bay synagogues were there, including Temple Sinai and Congregation Beth Abraham in Oakland, Piedmont’s Kehilla and Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton, according to the Temple Israel website. Also present were Alameda elected officials, Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb, and representatives from the JCC East Bay, the Anti-Defamation League, Union for Reform Judaism and the Jewish Community Relations Council.

The congregation cheered when Alameda’s acting police chief, Lance Leibnitz, announced the incident would be investigated as a hate crime, according to KTVU.

While this issue hopefully will come to a resolution, it appears that there are some unresolved incidents of anti-semitism that has arisen in the Alameda School District that has not yet been addressed to the satisfaction of at least one of the victims.  Also from J Weekly:

At the center of this conflict is Natasha, who, as detailed in a May 25 J. cover story and editorial,received a series of anonymous texts last January that taunted her for being Jewish and made threats about “gas” and “ethnic cleansing.” She discovered that a boy in her class, whom she thought was a friend, had sent the texts, egged on by a foreign exchange student. Eventually the first boy was made to apologize to her; her parents say the exchange student, who has since returned to his native Germany, never apologized and his parents weren’t even notified.

Later that same week, she and a friend overheard two other students joking about the Holocaust. One made the Hitler comment to her upon being confronted. Natasha’s parents then met with the school’s assistant principal and dean, but as outlined in ZOA letters to McPhetridge, felt appropriate action was not taken. (That dean has since left the school district.)

The ZOA letters also charge that these incidents are not isolated. Natasha reported to her parents and to school administrators other examples of students making anti-Semitic comments, of swastika graffiti found on desks and walls, and making jokes about the Holocaust, sometimes in front of teachers. Anti-Semitic incidents also were reported at other schools in the district, including Edison Elementary, as covered in J.


In an hour-long interview in his office on Aug. 17, McPhetridge refuted the ZOA’s and family’s charges one by one. Yes, he’s spoken out publicly against anti-Semitism at board meetings and a PTA meeting — the family just isn’t viewing the videos. Yes, the offending students were punished — he just can’t say how, due to privacy laws. Yes, the high school commemorates the Holocaust — and a speaker will be provided next year; he thanked the ZOA for reaching out with suggestions.

And yes, the district takes anti-Semitism seriously, as it does with all bigotry — although it can always do better. “It cannot be just about anti-Semitism,” he told J. “ It has to be the rights of all people.”

I actually disagree with the Superintendent here.  While the rights of all people are important, when there is — what appears to be a pattern — of bias related incidents in a short period of time, it is necessary to call out anti-Semitism specifically.  Clearly, as a nation we have a bit of an issue with, well, Nazis, it might be time to have a district wide discussion about this topic.




  1. I “like” how the District blamed the behavior of four students on a “foreign exchange student.” And they couldn’t “find” a speaker on the Holocaust. Here is what the parents of the victim said-

    “They are not taking this seriously,” Natasha’s father, Mel Waldorf, told J. “These were threats. How is my daughter supposed to feel safe, with school starting Monday? How can [McPhetridge] say he’s protecting a student when the kids who did this don’t have to apologize and are sitting in her class for the rest of the year? It’s egregious.”

    And which cultures are celebrated?

    In both a conversation with J. and in letters emailed to McPhetridge, Kadosh points out programs the school district runs to highlight inclusion for other minority students. As part of its “Everyone Belongs Here” campaign, for example, the district has held several events celebrating Muslim culture and history, including daily announcements in the high school during April, noting it was National Arab American Heritage Month.

    By contrast, the ZOA letter points out, there were no school-wide announcements in May that it was Jewish American Heritage Month. When members of the Jewish student club put up posters, one was ripped down while the others disappeared in a few days. And last spring, for the first time, no Holocaust survivor was invited to speak to the students for Holocaust Remembrance Day. The school said it “was too difficult” to find a speaker, the ZOA letter charged, and “rebuffed” ZOA offers to provide one.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — August 21, 2017 @ 6:30 am

  2. Let’s remember that many school matters are private, by law. The parents seem intent, as many parents often do, in finding out what the consequences for the perps were. This is not allowed.

    It is also so typical and disappointing that the parents and a commenter immediately single out Muslims for their anger. I’m sure there were events held for other ethnic/religious groups throughout the year. For example, why don’t the parents bring up Pride, or Black History Month, or anything other than Muslim events?

    Antisemitism is a problem. Islamophobia is a problem. Etc. Bullying in general is a problem and should not be tolerated.

    What can help? Teaching tolerance. Zero tolerance in the class and on the yard, which is much harder than it sounds. It takes a long, hard effort to create climates where kids understand that at school certain behaviors are not allowed. It takes education of the parents so that they understand the same thing.

    I remember a parent pointing to a sign on my classroom wall, issued by my district, that was crystal clear about expectations. He pointed to it and said “I don’t like this”. It was about the lgbt community. Shockingly, haha, he often made what he considered sly antisemitic remarks to me. But because of district support and teacher enforcement, he knew that the district had my back. If he wasn’t a person of color, the irony would not be complete.

    As regards the ZOA, they do not represent me or many other Jews. And Holocaust survivors are getting more difficult to find. I contacted a program five years ago or more and was told that nobody could come to my school because we were not within x blocks of public transportation. There are much fewer left now.

    After a number of private communications with him, I have no reason to believe that the superintendent is not sincere in his efforts to address antisemitism. When we respond with “no hate” or “no bullying” we may be being inclusive rather than evasive. I know I am.

    Bullied Jewish girl.

    Comment by Retiredteacher — August 21, 2017 @ 10:14 am

    • My wife who is Jewish taught history at Alameda High for almost a dozen years. They had speakers who survived the Holocaust. They showed Shindler’s List a few times also. The AP teacher and others in the history department are still there, so there is institutional memory.

      Gloria, who spoke for many years, escaped the gas chamber at 15 years of age by leaping from a moving truck and hiding in a culvert for several days. I believe she was naked.

      Do the math. They are too old to keep coming. Another gentleman died a few years back. I side with McPhetridge on this one Lauren.

      Comment by MI — August 21, 2017 @ 5:30 pm

  3. All School Districts are going to have to be vigilant as the Alt-Right emboldened by Trump will be active in their recruitment of youth. That’s who they are after. In addition to the incident at Temple Israel just yesterday Hate Flyers were found on Sherman. The flyers bore the logo of ‘The New Counter Culture’. Also the Jackson Park Bench was tagged with alt-right graffiti.

    Comment by frank — August 21, 2017 @ 2:19 pm

    • Do you have a copy of the flyer? Did the police get one?

      Comment by Retiredteacher — August 21, 2017 @ 3:28 pm

  4. Also, what did the graffiti say? This is not a time to pull punches.

    Comment by Retiredteacher — August 21, 2017 @ 3:30 pm

    • The Graffiti was an German Iron Cross with “WP” inside. On another part of the Bench ‘666 WP”. Internet search comes up with documentation. Police came out and documented both incidents. Graffiti has been removed by APRD. Photos of the Flyer which picture a Muslim woman in Hijab with a Swastika. I don’t know how to Post a photo here but they are on Peeps and on Nextdoor.

      Comment by frank — August 21, 2017 @ 3:40 pm

      • Thanks.

        Comment by Retiredteacher — August 21, 2017 @ 3:56 pm

  5. Since the flyer message was Islamophobic, this seems to enforce my point about joining ranks.

    Comment by Retiredteacher — August 21, 2017 @ 3:37 pm

  6. Could we stop using the term “alt right.” This term was invented by white supremacists and nazis so that they could refer to themselves without mentioning white supremacy, naziis, etc.

    If someone puts a WhitePower tag on a bench with a German Cross, I think that we can safely refer to them as white supremacists, neo nazis or just plain nazis. We don’t need to adopt their sanitized names for themselves

    Comment by JohnB — August 21, 2017 @ 5:53 pm

    • Totally agree.

      Comment by Retiredteacher — August 22, 2017 @ 3:00 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at